Ontario woman says her therapy rabbit was barred from train
Published Friday, July 27, 2018 8:37PM EDT
An Ontario woman is speaking out after VIA Rail allegedly barred her from bringing her therapy rabbit on a train.
Nineteen-year-old Autumn Evoy had been visiting her parents in Paris, Ont. from the Niagara Region when she tried to book a VIA Rail train home over the weekend.
Evoy, who experiences anxiety and panic attacks, claims a VIA Rail representative told her that she would not be able to bring her therapy rabbit, Thumper, with her.
Evoy had initially been given a lift to Paris with Thumper, who has been constantly at her side for months.
“I feel a lot more confidence knowing that he’s with me to comfort me in the times that I’m anxious,” Evoy told CTV Kitchener. “They really should be compassionate to people with disabilities and more understanding and accommodate them.”
In a statement sent to CTV Kitchener, a VIA Rail spokesperson said that the company’s policy “is in accordance with the Canadian Transportation Agency’s Code of Practice.”
The code defines a service animal as “an animal that is required by a person with a disability for assistance and is certified, in writing, as having been trained to assist a person with a disability by a professional service animal institution.”
The law does not specify what animals fall under this category.
Unable to afford a professionally-trained animal, Evoy says she trained Thumper herself.
“He helps so much with my anxiety and I really don’t have the means to buy, you know, a programmed dog,” she explained.
A letter from Evoy’s physician confirming that she needs the animal with her did not help, she says.
“I also have a health certificate from his veterinarian confirming that he believes he’s in good health and he doesn’t have any transferable diseases,” Evoy said.
Stranded in Paris, Evoy says she now has to look at other options for returning home this weekend.
“What else am I supposed to say after you’ve been told ‘no’ so many times,” she said. “Since I can’t drive due to my disability, my parents might have to drive me or I’ll probably take the different transit system that takes longer.”
Evoy says she reached out to the Canadian Transportation Agency, but has yet to receive a reply.
Evoy’s story comes after an Ottawa woman claimed that VIA Rail also barred her from travelling with her emotional support cat.
“When I was 13, I was sexually assaulted and that went on for a long time,” Aurora Morrison, who experiences PTSD and panic attacks, told CTV Ottawa.
“A lot of people in my community who have disabilities, mental health problems, do invest in pets because they help so much. But they’re not considered true service animals because they’re not certified.”
According to Morrison, VIA Rail told her that only dogs are allowed onboard trains as emotional support animals. She has since filed a formal complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency.
“I’m going to go as far as I can because this isn’t fair,” she said.
With a report from CTV Kitchener’s Natalie van Rooy and CTV Ottawa’s Joanne Schnurr